Voter Apathy a SADC Problem


By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK The Electoral Commissions Forum (ECF) for the Southern African Development Community (SADC) has assured continued support so that democracy is consolidated in the region. During the 8th Annual General Conference of the ECF-SADC, which ended in Swaziland last Friday, delegates from 14 member states pledged their continued support for strengthening democracy in the region. Yesterday, the Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN) Director of Elections and Chief Executive Officer, Philemon Kanime, revealed that since the formation of the forum eight years ago, the body has achieved its objectives of strengthening cooperation and support among member countries on electoral issues and democracy-building. Member states at the conference highlighted achievements and progress made on managing elections that are free and fair. Apart from the many successes reported, Kanime says voter apathy remains one of the main problems faced by most countries. This problem, Kanime added, prevails in Namibia due to financial constraints which hamper the establishment of regional offices in the country. “Most reports from countries shared similar problems. People do not understand the role of Electoral Commissions”, Kanime said. Despite the many challenges, Kanime stated that the forum has in the past years endeavoured to fulfil its mandate. Membership has through the years expanded with two countries, namely, Madagascar and Seychelles applying for membership this year. Member states have also helped one another in terms of resources especially during election time. “If we do not have cameras for elections, instead of buying, we ask the neighbour state if we can use theirs and after the exercise we return them” Kanime elaborated. The ECF also congratulated the DRC for holding elections in what Kanime described “a challenging environment”. The forum is still consulting on how best it can assist the DRC to conduct the upcoming re-run election scheduled for October 2006. The conference saw the appointment of a new Executive Committee to manage the affairs of ECF. Namibia previously held the forum’s Chairmanship. “The new President of the ECF is the Electoral Commission of Mozambique; Vice-President is South Africa; the new executive committee Chairperson is Zanzibar; Vice-Chairperson is Angola; and the five additional members are Botswana, DRC, Lesotho, Mauritius and Swaziland”, Kanime stated. According to ECN Director, Namibia acted as Chair for the forum for the past two years, and thus it is important that changes be made to enable other members to serve in these positions. The conference was held from 27 August to 1 September, 2006. Delegates engaged in vibrant discussions around the theme “Towards Responsive Electoral Systems: Enhancing Representation, Participation and Democratic Governance”.